Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

I received “Confessions of a Public Speaker” as a gift this winter (you know who you are, thankyou!), and it’s been on my bookshelf waiting for me to have a reason to sit still long enough to read it. A series of long flights presented exactly that opportunity so I brought the book along to read, which was perfect as I was travelling to give a tutorial at the PHP Community Conference in Nashville.

My first observation was that although I thought this would be a pretty serious book, I was laughing! Not just smiling, but actually giggling on a fairly small plane of people doing the short hop over to Amsterdam. I saw a few people trying to read the cover to figure out what this great comedic tome would be :)

The content itself was, in some ways, good common sense. I’ve been speaking for three years (almost!) and I’ve done a lot of self-help in that time, trying to drag my own skills and attitude up to a reasonable standard such that I won’t get lynched by crowds at conferences. So in one sense it wasn’t really new content for me. In another sense, it was presented in a very approachable and memorable way. Rather than preaching what I should be doing, the various tactics were sold to me almost as a conspirator in a plot to deliver the best experiences to audiences regardless of what else was going wrong. (This turned out to be exactly what I needed as I went on stage in Nashville for a 3-hour, live-streamed session and broke everything I touched)

I came away with some new ideas and certainly a better attitude to crises, and also feeling empowered that I have something to offer audiences even when personally I wonder if that’s the case. A dash of realism and humour made the whole thing an easy read so I was done with it before I reached my destination (even though I had both a knitting project and a new DS game!), and I know I’ll re-read it so I flew that (hardback) book back across the atlantic with me to keep at hand for the future. All in all, recommended for speakers looking for a new perspective and some fresh tips on how to survive – may you never have horror stories to tell that are as good as the ones in this book.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

  1. Sound like an interesting book. Would you recommend it for people that never spoke before, but are planning to in the future?

    I read the first page of the book (through amazon) and it seems indeed as easy to read.

    • Since I didn’t read this book until now, I’m not sure how I would have experienced it sooner. I’m tempted to say that until now I needed more “howto” books while I learned how to present useful content in a way that attendees could understand and use. The horror stories in this book might have been a bit alarming had I heard them sooner, and I was lucky enough that I’ve had people around me sort of drip-feeding a lot of this advice as I went along. So if you do get the book as you begin to speak then let me know what you think – and read it again in another 2 years.

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